Journal of Sociolinguistics

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Volume 1 Issue 3 (October 1997), Pages 315-472

Prior Creolization of African‐American Vernacular English? Sociohistorical and Textual Evidence from the 17th and 18th Centuries (pages 315-336)

The evidence which sociolinguists have used in recent discussions of the question of prior creolization in African‐American Vernacular English (AAVE) comes primarily from recordings made in the 20th century. While such evidence is helpful, we need to go further back in time, examining sociohistorical and textual evidence from the 17th and 18th centuries in which the roots of AAVE were laid down. Demographic and other conditions were most favorable to pidginization and creolization in the Southern colonies, which accounted for 87 percent of American Blacks in the mid‐18th century, and especially in South Carolina and Georgia. Additionally, the sociohistorical evidence suggests that pidgin‐creole speech may have been brought to America by the large numbers of slaves imported from the West Indies in the formative years of each colony, in New England and the Middle colonies as well as the South. Textual evidence of early creole‐like speech in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and Virginia may well derive from this source.

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